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How Taking Painkillers for My Basketball Injury Spiraled Into a Heroin Addiction

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Ninth grade was the year everything fell apart for me. One minute I was the star player on a highly competitive basketball team with my eye on a sports scholarship, the next minute I was on the ground and my future was shattered. All it took was one wrong step and I tore all the ligaments in my ankle. Not only was I now out of my favorite sport for the rest of the season, but I was in incredible pain. My parents took me to the ER but there wasn't much they could do for that type of injury other than bandage me up and tell me to rest. Oh, and they also gave me a bunch of painkillers to help me sleep. I never imagined when the nurse handed me that first bottle of Percocet that it would be the beginning of a love affair with opiates that would nearly kill me.

I started taking the Percocet as prescribed, and it did exactly what promised—numb me and take away the pain. But it wasn't long before I started to notice it had a bonus side effect: It nixed my psychological pain too. Still devastated from my accident, I was depressed and anxious and I loved the relief the meds gave me from my thoughts. And I didn't just feel better, I felt euphoric, better than I'd ever felt. It was this incredible feeling of "no one can touch me, I'm invincible!" I didn't understand it at the time, but that was my first real "high." I'd spend the next few years chasing that feeling.

The bottle the doctor at the hospital gave me was empty a lot sooner than it should have been. I went back to my doctor and lied, exaggerating my pain to get another prescription. That one-month bottle lasted me exactly a week. After that, I wasn't able to get any more pills, but I still craved the high. So by 10th grade, I was abusing alcohol and doing cocaine, shrooms, and any pills I could get my hands on. By this time my ankle had healed completely, but I was no longer interested in playing sports. The natural high I got from the endorphin rush didn't hold a candle to the chemical highs I was getting.

Eventually, my drug use got me kicked out of school two months before graduation. Instead of seeing that as a reality check, I rushed through my GED and moved in with my addict boyfriend so we could do as many drugs as we liked. But when it came to drugs, I always had one line I wouldn't cross: heroin. In my mind, heroin was only for hopeless junkies who wandered the streets and did unspeakable things to feed their addiction. I would never be one of those people, I told myself.

Then one day, I was sitting in a cheap motel with my boyfriend (we'd long been kicked out of our apartment) and jonesing for our next high. I'd run out of drugs and was beginning to feel really sick from withdrawal. I begged my boyfriend to get me something. He told me all he could get me was heroin. When I said no, anything but heroin, he just laughed and informed me it was too late, I'd already been doing heroin for a year and just didn't know it. It turns out all the white powder we'd been snorting was heroin and not crushed up OxyContin pills like I'd thought. So when he handed me the syringe, it felt like fate.

My whole life changed the second I plunged that needle into my arm. I was in love. Not with my boyfriend, with the drug. Heroin became my relationship, my lover, my whole purpose. And I never looked back.

That summer, something else would turn my world upside down. I'd always known I was adopted. And while I love my adoptive parents, I was still curious about my birth parents. So when I found my biological father on MySpace, I sent him a message. He replied, and soon I was at their door, introducing myself. We were all really nervous, so my biological mother reached out and handed me a handful of pills. "Take these, it will help the conversation," she whispered.

From there, I lived with my biological parents and got high with my mom every day. Even though she became violent and verbally abusive, it still felt like I belonged there, with them. Then one day my mom's body failed her. Years of drug abuse took their toll and she was put into hospice care. I remember visiting her there and she looked like a frail, 90-year-old woman. She begged me to bring drugs to the hospital, even though that's what got her there in the first place. My mother died at just 43 years old.

I didn't know what to do about my drug problem, but I definitely didn't want the same fate. I was 21 years old, and it was time to get clean.

After a year of trying to detox on my own, I finally admitted I couldn't do it alone and checked into Caron Treatment Centers. I was there for five months and was able to get off all drugs completely. From there, I transitioned to a sober house for four more months. That ended when I met a man. Instead of staying focused on my recovery, I decided to focus on him and we moved in together. By my one-year anniversary of sobriety—a day that should have been one of the best of my life—I felt suicidal. Instead of taking care of my own problems, I'd become consumed with taking care of him, and my own health was crumbling. I knew I was in danger of using again (and frankly it was a miracle I hadn't), so I went back to Caron for a second round of treatment.

This time the treatment really worked for me. I finally understood that my addiction wasn't a force that controlled me but rather something I controlled with my behaviors. That's when I changed all my bad behaviors. In addition to staying in my 12-step program, I got a job, enrolled in college, made new friends, and even started taking care of my body again with exercise and a healthy diet.

Today, I'm over six years sober, and I love my life. I'm studying to be a social worker so I can help children in foster care, I've healed my relationship with my adoptive parents, I'm in a healthy relationship with a great man, and I love the natural high I get at the gym. (Zumba is my favorite!) Just a few years ago I didn't even think I'd be alive today, much less in such a great situation. It hasn't been easy—recovery is the hardest thing I've ever done, and it's not finished yet—but it's been so worth it. I finally have real peace and that's better than any high.

For more information on drug addiction or to get help, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a free, confidential 24-hour hotline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

 

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